Piedmont: Council OKs changes to fix traffic ‘nightmare’

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Originally posted on Contra Costa Times

PIEDMONT — The Piedmont City Council voted unanimously Monday to make changes for cars traveling up Magnolia Avenue to Highland Avenue after listening to the area being described as a “Bermuda Triangle” and a traffic “nightmare.”

Several options were presented to the council from traffic engineer Michelle DeRobertis to alleviate the weekday congestion from cars lining up along Magnolia to drop off or pick up students from Piedmont High School, Millennium High School or Piedmont Middle School. A long queue develops, which backs up on both directions of Highland in front of Veterans Hall.

Motorists are making illegal left turns off Magnolia at the Highland Avenue triangle and blocking the area where police cars are parked, police Chief Rikki Goede said.

“We’ve had several near misses at the pedestrian crosswalk. Officers turn on their lights to leave the station and the cars do not move. This impedes officers leaving to respond to calls,” Goede said, adding, “It’s a Bermuda Triangle.”

Using signage and striping, the area between the police department and landscaped triangle will be closed so that public use of the area for turnaround will not be allowed. This will create a police parking only zone of six spots. There also will be two public spots for those having business in the police department.

The city obtained a grant sponsored by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley to pay for DeRobertis’ services to perform a safety study of the affected area.

This will be a one-year pilot project.

“The chief made a compelling point about public safety. This entire area is a nightmare. This is making a start,” Vice Mayor Jeff Wieler said.

While change is always difficult, Mayor Margaret Fujioka said, “Safety trumps aesthetics.”

In other business, the council voted to waive permit fees as an incentive for small jobs to promote public safety and preparedness. Fees would be waived for installation of automatic gas shut-off valves, seismic strapping for chimneys, installation of gas log fireplaces and a back flow prevention device for drip irrigation to water street trees.

Public Works Director Chester Nakahara said the loss of income to the city for this pilot program would be negligible.

In addition, Piedmont will get a CivicSpark Fellow — a college graduate intern — for 11 months to assist the staff in accomplishing the city’s climate action goals. City staff will screen candidates who will work for the Local Government Commission in conducting the program. The intern will be paid $18,400, which is provided by East Bay Energy Watch, with Piedmont paying $5,000.

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